SANTA MARTA: THE DOOR OF THE SIERRA NEVADA

Santa Marta is located in Magdalena department, on the Caribbean coast in the north of Colombia, between Barranquilla and Riohacha.

The city is a good place to stop off if you are doing a tour of the country and you want to go in the Sierra Nevada or to the Guajira Department.

It is one of the most tourist-focused cities on the coast. Its location between the Sierra Nevada and the Caribbean coast makes this city very attractive, especially considering the variety of fauna and flora to be found there.

 It is important also for the historical and cultural heritage, Santa Marta, was a colonial city, where you can admire the colonial architecture and monuments such as the Basilica of Santa Marta, which is a one of the biggest tourist destinations on the Caribbean coast.

As a Caribbean city, Santa Marta has suffered from repetitive British, French and Dutch attacks. The city is steeped in history and legends. One of them, says that Santa Marta´s Cathedral contains the heart of the famous Simón Bolívar, hidden somewhere. In fact Bolivar spent his last part of the life here.

A walking tour is the perfect way to orient yourself within the city and learn about its history and culture with your guide: follow your guide along the beach, check out top landmarks such as the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, and end your tour with a prime spot for watching the sunset.

I was in Santa Marta as starting point for the “Ciudad perdida” I was by trekking! The Lost City, or Ciudad Perdida, is the archaeological site of an ancient indigenous city in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. It has been a commercial center around 700 A.D., and its population probably ranged between 1,400 and 3,000 inhabitants. Hidden in the jungle for over a thousand years, the Lost City was found in 1972 when treasure hunters followed a series of stone steps leading up to an abandoned city.

From Santa Marta tour operators offer three- to five-day guided treks to the Lost City which include transportation, lodging, food.

Read more about the city!

 

ARENAL: THE COSTA RICA VOLCANO!

The Arenal Volcano is one of the main touristic destination in Costa Rica. It is in the North of the Country and around this area, you can do, lots of things! From the relaxing massage to the trekking to the top of the volcano…. there are several tours that take place in the area surrounding the volcano, and for good reason! You can have access to the rainforest, waterfalls, the country’s largest lake...

First, explore Arenal Volcano National Park

Arenal, is without a doubt, the most popular and well-recognized of Costa Rica’s volcanoes. When you arrive there…. You will be impressed by the huge symmetrical cone that dominates the fertile landscape at his foot. From San Jose you can simply take a bus that will bring you to Arenal. For the accommodation, no worries! I arrived there and I searched for a place to stay. I found a nice woman that also had an activity to sell Tour, but she was very nice, as I was a girl alone, so she gave me some good discount. At first I didn’t know if I chose well, but the days after spoken with several other backpackers I understood I was right… good compromise between me and her to have both the best we could from the bargain! I slept for 7 euros, and I bought a tour for the afternoon to the Park and waterfalls plus the tour of the day after to the top of the volcano and last, the passage with the jeep to Monteverde to do the most amazing zip line all for 150 Euros….

Coming back to the national Park…until recently, Arenal was the country’s most active volcano with an average of 41 eruptions per day. The Arenal Volcano is currently in a resting phase, you cannot hike up the volcano itself, but I recommend hiking through Arenal Volcano National Park with a bilingual naturalist guide in search of old lava flow and wildlife.

Slight changes in altitude create unique micro-climates and ecosystems through this region, making it home to a variety of exotic species.

Rest yourself in Arenal Volcano All-Natural Hot Springs

Another amazing thing to do here is to soak your muscles in thermal pools of water! Arenal is also home to several hot springs. Formed when water is heated underground and bubbles to the surface, Costa Rica’s mineral waters have been used as therapeutic baths for more than two hundred years to treat rheumatism and other ailments. These natural wonders tempt even the most experienced traveler – for a good reason! What could be better than a relaxing warm bath, surrounded by jungle and shadowed by the beauty of the volcano after a day of adventure?

Neighborhood:

Hike to La Fortuna Waterfall

Close to Arenal, there is a little farming town of La Fortuna that is named for its beautiful neighbor, the La Fortuna Waterfall. As one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country and luckily enough, it can only be arrived at by foot (a 15-minute hike) or horseback, if you don’t like to walk. From the lush rainforest greenery, La Fortuna plummets 200 feet to fall into a pool of crystal clear water. Remember: the pool is delightfully cool on hot summer days!

Tenorio Volcano National Park

Tenorio has everything you could want in a tropical forest natural area.  Hiking to the sky blue Celeste waterfall is a highlight, but the hanging bridges in the rainforest and trail to Lago Danta through the cloud forest from the Heliconias entrance are equally amazing.

Celeste Waterfall: At a glance these are what puts the region around Bijagua on the list of the best places in Costa Rica.  From ranger station at the west entrance of Tenorio National Park (El Pilón) to the azure tinted cataract a couple of kilometers to the south.

Many hypotheses, conjectures and beliefs have been brought up about the rier color in a sunny day, intense blue, including that the color was due to the presence of a metal such as copper, the river’s proximity to the Tenorio Volcano or because of minerals such as calcium carbonate and sulfur. But all of those explanations are now known to be false,read more about this....

"To understand the enigma of this matter, one should know that two completely transparent rivers, Sour Creek (Quebrada Agria) and the Good View River (Río Buena Vista), converge to form the Río Celeste. It is precisely from the point of union of the two where the waters cease to be transparent and become light blue for the following 14 kilometers of river. For that reason, this point is known as The Dyer (El Teñidero)."

Hanging Bridges Hike

If you like to hike, another possibility is to hike through a private nature preserve along well-maintained trails and across a series of fixed and hanging bridges with views of Arenal Volcano. It is relaxing and it doesn’t take a long time if you don’t like long trails. A naturalist guide will point out the flora and fauna of the area like monkeys, sloths, tree frogs, and more. Don’t miss the waterfall extension trail at the end of the hike!

The Lake Arenal: the passage to Monteverde

The Arenal Volcano is also the base of Costa Rica’s largest lake, Lake Arenal. With the mighty volcano as its backdrop and the surrounding rolling hills and forests, Lake Arenal is truly a vision of peacefulness. Several activities are here possible: fishing, kayaking, and stand up paddle boarding are some of the most popular activities enjoyed from the lake. I pass from here with a cruise to reach my next stop… Monteverde. You can most certainly enjoy its added beauty to the scenery.

PRAGUE: MY FIRST DAY!

Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic is a perfect mix of architecture and culture. This beautiful city is called the “City of a Hundred Spires” and “Mother of All Cities” and has so much to offer its many visitors.

The name of the city means “Rapids” (as in a river). Old Bohemia meets the modern world, here beauty is never lacking. I hope you will get appetite after reading my article!

Let’s start: the castle and the upper city (Petrin Hill)

I love to walk when the city is quite and not full of tourists, so at 7 am I started my day from the Prague Castle, where from 10 am is almost impossible to take a picture without unknown people included….. It is the official residence and office of the President of the Czech Republic and it is located in the Hradčany district of Prague. The castle has been a seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, and presidents of Czechoslovakia.

A curiosity: it is also the largest ancient castle in the world still alive!

It's open to the public between 6am and 11pm, and you can see the changing of the guard every hour. The gardens are open to the public as well and are a sight to see! If you arrive from the center you will have to do some stairs to arrive to the top…stop there and look the panorama on the city, because it will be one of the best in Prague!

 

Closed to the castle there is also the upper part of the city Petrin Hill…. I stopped in a bench there for one hour just reading a book under the sun in front of the park you will find there… I have also to say that Petrin Hill has the best views of Prague as well as several more attractions: the 14th century Hunger Wall, the Strahov Monastery, Stefanik Observatory, and a memorial for the victims of the Communist regime. It rises some 130 meters above the left bank of the Valtava River and is almost entirely covered with parks.

Remember to drink an original monastery beer when you go down…. To chill a bit in the ancient city!

Charles Bridge

If you are walking a perfect place to go is the “Charles Bridge”: full of people but also of artists…. Really nice also the view from the most famous historical bridge in Prague. Below it you can see the “ Valtava” river and lots of small “pedalo” of all types…

Furthermore, the ancient bridge is not the only one in the city… Spanning both banks of the Valtava River, Prague is home to many bridges – some old, some new, most built in the beautiful Bohemian style that is so characteristic of the city.

Remember also that from there you can see, 2 small islands, where you can go by walking and pass a nice break or have a coffee or beer!

Going down to the city center you can stop also to the “Dancing House” (Nicknamed “Fred and Ginger”), houses a Dutch insurance company. This non-traditional design (to say the least) was controversial at the time because it contrasts with the Baroque, Gothic and Art Nouveau buildings of Prague. The shape is supported by 99 concrete panels, each a different shape and dimension and at the top of the building is a large twisted structure nicknamed “Medusa”

Explore the Old Town Square

Prague lived a history of invasions, but the Old Town Square has remained relatively untouched since the 10th Century. Take in your mind that swarms of tourists’ crowd the historical streets, packing out the restaurants every day. Of course, the square itself is the perfect place to admire the wonderful architecture Prague has to offer and if that isn’t your thing then the various street performers, musicians and merchants that line the streets here will certainly keep you entertained.

VOSS: AT THE CROSS OF THE 2 MOST LONGEST NORVEGIAN FJIORDS

As one of my closest friend lived in Voss for 6 months and I promised her to reach her there this summer I decided to go in Norway. After several stops I arrived in Voss, a little town that is a strategic place due to the fact it is in the cross of 2 fjords: the sognefjiord and the Hardangerfjiord, the 2 biggest ones.

I just described some of the attraction you can find there the easiest if you are on foot!

ATTRACTION

Voss Folk Museum

At Voss Folk Museum you can visit Molstertunet, a farmstead composed by 16 houses. This was in use still 1927 and think that the oldest building comes from 16th century!

The nice aspect is this is an outstanding example of the traditional buildings customs of the area. You can also just go up to the Museum and have a nice view on the city from the top drinking a coffee there chilling on a bench.

To arrie from the station is 30 minutes walking, if you go by car just 10 minutes. Remember that it is daily open just in summer (from June to August) while in the rest of the year it opens just for groups for a new exhibition that they are realizing for 2019.

Voss Church

The church was built in 1271 but it is not in woods as the remained oldest and most famous 29 churches of Norway (the ones with the Vikings Mythology symbols and originally in woods).  The interesting thing is that this is made in stones due to a nobility aspect…. As Voss was a rich town in the past the woods church was replaced by the existing one because the woods was for poor people and stones for rich ones! The church also hosts some concerts during the summer.

Hiking

Voss has a wide range of walks and hiking trails with different levels of difficulty. The hiking season starts in June and ends in October, as said it depends from the weather conditions and altitude. You need to be prepared anyway, so just take your raincoat with you and wear good footwear. If you like to do picnic bring also food and drink with you!

For more info there is a touristic center in the main road of Voss where you can ask info on the suggested hikes and let’s go on your path!

More than this you can also rent a bike and go on quiet and rural roads to attractions such as Tvindefossen and Skjervsfossen waterfalls or for shorter excursion.

Bordalsgjelet gorge

Bordalsgjelet gorge is a natural attraction within very short distance from Voss, 30 minutes to arrive there and other 30 to reach the gorges. It is an easy path as the deep and imposing gorge has been adapted for the visiting public, there are also viewpoint and benches for resting the legs! If there is no snow you can arrive to the gorge. Here you can experience an impressive view of the potholes that have been shaped by the ice and river over the time (thousand of years!).

OSLO NEIGHBORHOOD: THE FJORD ARCHIPELAGO

If you are looking for a relaxed way of experiencing Oslo and the the fjord, you can take the ferry and go island hopping. You just need to go to Rådhusbrygge 4 and from there you can catch the ferry to idyllic Høvedoya and Lindøya, with approximately 300 charming Norwegian summer cottages. This is not the only small island you can visit; the others are Rambergøya, Gressholmen and Heggholmen. All of them are fantastic places for lazy days in the sun, and Heggholmen houses one of the oldest lighthouses in the fjord.

Rambergøya and parts of Gressholmen are nature reserves, and that sea birds are nesting between the two islands. Updated ferry routes are always available at Ruter, where you will also find information about tickets.

If you were ever in doubt, the Norwegian capital, like the rest of the country, boasts beautiful nature experiences, and the Oslo Fjord is definitely worth paddling!

When I decided to visit the islands in front of Oslo I was to the port to see which options I had… the best one for me is buying the daily ticket for 10 Euros (105 NOK) and you can pass all the day from an island to another, walking one it and discover the nature you will find there.

If you would like to stop on Høvedoya, where there are some nice beaches where you can have a pic nic…. Or just go for a walk on the island boarders! It was the first one for me; the ferry took just 15 minutes to go there from the port.

After Høvedoya I was on Gressholmen, where you can find also a café  or restaurant closed to the point the ferry will let you on the island. This island has also a small church at the end of it, from where you can take some nice pictures and enjoy the view!

After 2 hours exploring this island, I landed for Lindøya, where I passed a nice afternoon taking the sun in a pier!

ESPANA EN COCINA: TORTILLA DE PAPAS Y CEBOLLA!

One of the most simple and traditional dish of Spain composed by eggs, potatoes and onion….. "Tortilla"

It is simple but you need to respect the steps one by one to have a perfect Spanish tortilla. In Italy we have the “frittata” but it is not the same thing… The Tortilla is something special, it is a complete plate but also an appetizer, a good “tapas”!

Preparation: 15 min.

Cook: 30 min.

Total: 45 min.

INGREDIENTS FOR 4 PEOPLE

5 EGGS

4 MEDIUM POTATOS (peeled, cut in half, and sliced horizontally)

2 ONIONS (sliced)

PEPPER

SALT

OIL

 

THE PROCESS STEP BY STEPS

Before to start, please divide the red to the blank part of the eggs. Put them in 2 different bowl of medium size. Beat the red and whisk the blank! Add salt to the red not to the blank.

In a large stockpot over medium high heat, add olive oil enough to cover the potatoes you will add after. When it is hot but not smoking, add the onions. Lower heat to medium. Cook, poaching the d onions until they will be tender, about 5 minutes.

After that, put the onions in the red part of the eggs and do the same job with the potatoes.

At this time, get all the things you are going to need for the tortilla. A large plate, a frying pan. IMPORTANT NOTE:  IT MUST BE NON-STICK FRYING PAN. If not, your tortilla will stick and the whole process is ruined.

Add the blank of the eggs to all the others ingredients and mix them.

In the frying pan, add one tbsp of your reserved oil. Heat over medium heat until almost smoking.

Now add your egg and potato mixture, and as soon as it hits the pan, start stirring the eggs so that they coagulate and the uncooked part goes to the bottom, and you get some cooked egg on top.

Simultaneously, as you are stirring the center, with your wooden spoon, drag it along the edges to make sure that it is drying up.

This enables you to make sure that the tortilla is not sticking on the edges, so it will flip loosely onto your large plate.

Now the most difficult part of the tortilla cooking process….. You need to turn the tortilla, how? Take a plate big enough and cover the pan, the oil has to be all absorbed or please put it off in you have more… or you will burn yourself!

You are ready, do pressing on the plate and turn at the same time plate and pan….. in this way the half cooked tortilla is on the plate, let it slowly slide back into the pan and finish to cook it, brown it a bit too….

Remember that  in the center the tortilla didn’t need to be completely cooked.

Notes: if you want another version of this amazing plate is with potatoes and peperoni. You can add also some cheese if you like it!

Watch a Video

Read more recipes: click here!

3 DAYS IN BARCELONA: A PERFECT LONG WEEKEND!

3 days are the perfect time to experience Barcelona at your first visit, you could see most of the city’s main tourist attractions and even get a little bit more! The city, widely considered one of Europe’s is one of the most vibrant cities in the world, with unique mix of culture,and energy. Here’s some tips on how to spend 3 days in Barcelona!

FIRST DAY:STARTING TO GO AROUND...

If you want start from the heart of Barcelona, you can have a great start with a walk on the Rambla and go to visit its most iconic market: the Boquería Market (La Rambla, 91). Today it has become a bit touristic but it’s still a must-visit in Barcelona. Better to go in the morning before it will be too crowd. You can you’re your breakfast there from one of the stalls and do some morning grocery shopping.

After your good breakfast, continue to the Paseo de Gracia, where you’ll find two of Barcelona architect Antoni Gaudí‘s most famous works. First, Casa Batlló: go inside to fully understand Gaudì prospective!

Following you will arrive to the nearby Casa Milá, Gaudí’s last work. Known as “La Pedrera” (“the quarry”), the interior is quite fascinating as well. The nice thing is to go on the spectacular rooftop terrace for some of the best views in Barcelona and take some pictures.

There, go around the neighborhood: Gracìa was a little village before being completely absorbed by the sprawling metropolis becoming part of Barcelona! Take your time to admire its picturesque, narrow streets and see where they take you.

You can end your day having some good Tapas there and after that see what the night will bring you!

SECOND DAY: SAGRADA FAMILIA Y PARC GUELL

The second day can start with the visit to the most beautiful church I ever see in my life: the Sagrada Familia, another Gaudí masterpiece. The building began to be constructed in 1882 and today is still uncompleted! Gaudì died before finishing this amazing pace of art and the legend says He was almost obsessed of it…. Actually He died in the meanwhile He was admiring the uncompleted construction mashed by a carriage and anybody recognized him in that moment. After few days people started to ask where He was, and finally they discovered He was dead….

The Curch is built thanks to the tips and the entrances the tourists pay to visit it!

The interior is reminiscent of a magical fairytale forest, with its towering tree-like columns and glittering light produced by the stained glass windows. Tip: book your entrance before going to Barcelona, there is difficult to find free places!

After the visit you can relax yourself in the park and have lunch.. Maybe not closed to the church, there is more expensive.

A must-stop in Barcelona is the Park Guell. The famous architect originally intended to build an upper-class housing development. That vision never came to pass, but the public areas of the development were completed and turned into a whimsical park.

Closed to there you can visit also the Carmel Bunkers (Carrer de Marià Labèrnia) located to the north of Park Guell. It is an abandoned military structures left over from Spain’s Civil War in the 1930s might be Barcelona’s best-kept secret. It’s a spectacular place to watch the Barcelona sunset!

For the night you can go around the “Barrio Gotico”. There take some cervezas or cocktails and enjoy the Barcelona nightlife!

THIRD DAY: VISIT THE GOTHIC BARRIO AND CILL IN BARCELONETA

The last day, you can visit the storied Gothic Barrio that maybe you saw during the night the day before. With over 2,000 years of history lining its streets, there’s no shortage of things to see and do here. Step into the shoes of Gaudí or Picasso, relax in a picturesque plaza or get lost in the winding streets of the old Jewish Quarter. The Gothic Quarter is full of magic just waiting to be discovered.

You can also visit some museum, for example the one of the Spain’s most iconic artist, the Picasso Museum (Carrer Montcada, 15-23), or enjoy the Gaudí’s works at the Gaudí Exhibition Center (Pla de la Seu, 7). After that you can stop to the cathedral!

The long walking day can continue on the beach of Barceloneta, so relax take some sun and drink a good mojito there…..

In alternative you can go for a tour of the street art of Barcelona, in that case see my article: BARCELLONA: STREETART WALK – THE POBLENOU

You can do so many more things in Barcelona… this is just a part of them so be ready to go back to this amazing city!

 

 

 

MONTEZUMA: “Pura Vida” BEACH TOWN

Montezuma is on the southern coast of the Nicoya Peninsula. This Peninsula is very remote and  Montezuma is one of the most difficult place to reach but it is never overly crowded. The people who arrive here are a mixture of backpackers and young families, looking for a quite getaway.

Back in the past

Montezuma was originally a small fishing village and it was “discovered” by some adventurous travelers back in the 1960’s and 70’s and has been a hippie center ever since. Home to many conservationists, musicians, artists, naturalists, and 'hippies', Montezuma is a mellow and tranquil beach town that has maintained the essence of simple life.

In November, Montezuma hosts an annual film festival.

Today

Montezuma is composed of quiet beaches, wild forest, and lots of monkeys, butterflies, and birds. One of the things that makes it unique is it’s the feeling of peace you have in this magic place. It is a vibrant community, made up of expats and locals.

The landscape is amazing and here you can find a unique open-air comfort and culture. At night, the town's generally relaxed-vibe transitions to a more upbeat fiesta, once locals and visitors have had time to reborn after a full day in the sun.

You can also find notable restaurants host excellent cuisine. The smell of Ceviche and Empanadas of the restaurant is filled the air.

The best beach is sitting at Montezuma's doorstep, Playa Grande (Grande Beach) where many visitors go to relax and chilling in the beautiful surroundings. Some people do also surfing, that is generally good. I passed my afternoons there finding some shade under a tree and the sounds of palm trees rustling in the breeze and waves crashing on shore gently lulled me to sleep.

If you want to trek a bit you can go up and down the coast. There lost in the vegetation you can find tide pools form around rocky outcroppings, and just outside of town, there is a gorgeous 80-foot cascading waterfall with excellent swimming holes and all that just 20 min hike up the Montezuma River.

Montezuma offers many cheap accommodations and hostels.

The most important concept to understand and feel in Costa Rica and especially here in Montezuma is what they mean for “Pura Vida”. To me “Pura Vida” meant Pure Life. Natural, untouched, simple and pure. To explain it in more depth ‘Pura Vida’ can be a greeting, a state of mind, a way of life. You meet someone walking down the street, you say ‘Pura Vida’. You catch the perfect wave while surfing, you say ‘Pura Vida’. You have a wonderful day, you say ‘Pura Vida’. You find a great bar while walking the streets of Montezuma, you say ‘Pura Vida’. It can mean anything but always something good. Anytime something good happens, “Pura Vida” is the appropriate thing to say.

Getting There

Visitors have several options for getting to Montezuma. If you’re on a budget, the public bus is the best choice. You can take the direct bus from San Jose and really enjoyed it because the road view is really nice. Although it is a long trip (around 6 hours), it includes a scenic ride on a ferry.

Montezuma truly feels like paradise at the end of the world, and for a true getaway cannot be beaten as a destination!